Student body president Brittany Taylor welcomed students, staff and visitors to the program, followed by Jessica King leading the Pledge of Allegiance and Chelsea Hastings' beautiful rendition of the National Anthem. Teacher Randy Curtis gave the invocation prior to Jessica Kilpatrick's reading of Rules of Our Flag and Lori Beth Adams' presentation of the Marine's Prayer.
CHS principal Bob Edens next addressed the crowd saying, "Nine-eleven is a time I will never forget. Our emphasis today is to remember the people who fought for our country, who sacrificed, who are still fighting." He took a moment to reflect on his friendship with Elaine Huffines (the upcoming speaker) and his connection with SSG Marc Golzynski (the focus of Huffines' program) before introducing the day's first guest speaker.
Opening her talk, Huffines, a Forrest School teacher, told the audience her son Marc was killed in Iraq on March 27, 2007. As the gathering absorbed that information, Huffines continued saying her topic for the day was "Belonging." When we are born we belong to a family, she began. "Today, you belong to this special school. You have school pride; you are Cornersville Bulldogs."
She mentioned Todd Nunes and David Hierholzer, two local soldiers also killed while fighting for our freedom, before bringing our thoughts to 9-11. "We were reminded (on 9-11) that we also belong to a nation of people. On that day we knew we were all in this together."
Immediately following the attacks, "many felt the call to service. My son was also called to service." In 1995, Golzynski had joined the Marine Reserve; early 2001 he decided not to re-enlist, but the attacks changed his mind about serving. With a wife and son, Marc "wanted to fight so his son didn't have to."
A restaurant manager throughout the week, this Weekend Warrior grew to "belong" to the Marine Reservists. In 2004 Golzynski was deployed to Iraq. After his tour he returned home to his family, safe and secure. Then came the time when some of the young Marines the Staff Sergeant trained were being deployed to the dangerous region. Instead of staying home SSG Golzynski made the decision to go back to Iraq, telling his family, "I cannot let them go to Iraq without their sergeant there to protect them."
Two weeks after his 30th birthday, two weeks before he was to return to the United States, SSG Golzynski was the victim of a sniper's gunshot.
"You all belong to one great country," Huffines told the students, "just as Marc did. You belong."
The audience then met Marc Golzynski, the man and the soldier, through a very touching slideshow of the young man's life.
CHS Student Council member Kristin Fagan introduced the next guest speakers, who are also mothers of soldiers, Barb Blackmore and Lisa Jackson of Moms On a Mission (M.O.M.). Already emotional following Huffines' presentation, Blackmore, eyes brimming with tears, told why M.O.M. was organized. "We wanted to start a group that supports other mothers and families of soldiers, but we also wanted to get the community involved." She explained that the organization keeps up with all soldiers by sending letters and packages in celebration of the various holidays. An example of M.O.M.'s kindness: five foot artificial Christmas trees were sent to soldiers, complete with ornaments made by local school children.
Blackmore concluded her portion of the program reading thank you letters from several soldiers.
As Lisa Jackson stepped to the microphone, her emotions took over, forcing her to take a few deep breaths before starting. She told of 16 Marshall County citizens currently serving in harm's way. Then she asked, "Where will you be ten years from today?" Because ten years ago, those who now don a military uniform were carefree, enjoying sports, studying hard at school, playing with their friends; they were starting careers, getting married, raising young families. "Remember those who gave for your tomorrow," Jackson said. "We hope you will be safe and sound because of the sacrifices made today."
Both "M.O.M.s" encouraged those in attendance to take the time to write to the soldiers.
Students Jessica Shelton and Kerrie Tashlin recited the names of Cornersville School relatives in the Armed Forces, before Brittany Taylor concluded the program with "My Name is Old Glory."
On a personal note, the Cornersville School Student Council should be commended for a job well done. In my many years covering events for the local newspaper, both at the paper and with the school system, this was one of the best programs of this type I've witnessed. The participating students were very professional; the speakers and accompanying slideshows touched the hearts of everyone in attendance. The Cornersville students making up the audience should also be commended for their rapt attention; one could "hear a pin drop" as the various presentations were being made. Great job, everyone!